Boris Johnson’s government is set to ban gay ‘conversion therapy’ after all, though his plans reportedly do not cover practices aimed at trans people.
On 31 March, a leaked document seen by ITV News confirmed that the UK government was no longer planning to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ despite promising to do so since 2018.
However, mere hours after the news broke, the government made a U-turn on its decision in the wake of public outcry because of it – including from fellow Conservative politicians.
“The Prime Minister has changed his mind off the back of the reaction to our report and he WILL now ban conversion therapy after all,” said Paul Brand of ITV News, the journalist who broke the story.
“Senior Govt source absolutely assures me it’ll be in Queen’s Speech.
“But only gay conversion therapy, not trans.”
🚨 U-TURN ON THE U-TURN 🚨
The Prime Minister has changed his mind off the back of the reaction to our report and he WILL now ban conversion therapy after all.
Senior Govt source absolutely assures me it’ll be in Queen’s Speech.
But only gay conversion therapy, not trans.
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) March 31, 2022
Although details remain somewhat scarce at this time, it has been reported that pressure from government officials is what made the tide turn on Boris Johnson’s decision.
Brand added: “I’m told that the Prime Minister was shifted by the strength of reaction from Conservative MPs and ministers when they saw the story break.
“But he has removed trans conversion therapy from the equation and is insisting any bill must not have ‘unintended consequences’.”
On 1 April, Equalities Minister and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was reported to have been planning to meet with Johnson about ‘conversion therapy.
“She’s just touched down from India and as far as we understand it she was unaware that the ban was about to be ditched, before last night’s u-turn,” Brand stated.
Alicia Kearns, a Conservative MP who has been campaigning for ‘conversion therapy’ to be banned for some time, slammed the government for its initial decision to ditch its commitment to a ban.
She told ITV News: “As a politician, I stood for election to ban ‘conversion therapy’ because it is harming people up and down this country… If we do not bring in this legislation, people will lose lives.”
Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, said his government is seeking “urgent legal advice” on introducing a ban in Wales if the UK won’t implement one across the entire country.
“The UK Government’s U-turns on banning conversion therapy have been alarming and shameful,” he wrote on Twitter.
“They have chosen not to protect our Transgender community. This is completely unacceptable.”
The UK Government's U-turns on banning conversion therapy have been alarming and shameful.
They have chosen not to protect our Transgender community. This is completely unacceptable.
— Mark Drakeford (@PrifWeinidog) April 1, 2022
‘Conversion therapy’ is typically defined as any attempt at changing a person’s sexuality or gender identity, often involving techniques such as electroshock therapy or prayer.
It has been widely condemned by health experts all over the world, with some comparing it to torture.
Among these are the National Health Service, World Health Organisation, World Psychiatric Association and the United Nations.
“Excluding trans people from protection against abusive, harmful conversion practices is shameful,” said prominent human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell. “It is a callous betrayal that will leave vulnerable trans people at the mercy of exorcisms, beatings, emotional blackmail and psychological brow-beating.”
Leni Morris, CEO of anti-abuse charity Galop, added that they are “deeply concerned by the leaked documents”.
“Despite the supposed subsequent U-turn on this, there are indications that the ban might go ahead only for lesbian, gay and bi people, leaving trans people unprotected. Let us be clear – a ban without our trans siblings is not a ban,” Morris continued.
“So-called conversion therapy is psychological and physical abuse, and LGBT+ people in this country are being put through it simply because of who they are. We need this ban. We need it for the whole community.”
A ban on conversion therapy that is not trans-inclusive is not a genuine ban at all. Excluding trans people from protection against abusive, harmful conversions is shameful. Trans people will be at risk of exorcisms, beatings, emotional blackmail & psychological brow-beating. pic.twitter.com/ywZLnPyDel
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) April 1, 2022